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Gun sales soar in Ohio during coronavirus pandemic

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  • Gun sales soar in Ohio during coronavirus pandemic

    Dave Holz, owner of Point Blank Range and Gun Shop in Mentor, open carries in his store,. (Lynn Ischay/The Plain Dealer) ORG XMIT: CLE1601051551106372 ORG XMIT: CLE1601060332197523 The Plain DealerThe Plain Dealer

    By Sabrina Eaton, cleveland.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Toilet paper isn’t the only commodity in short supply during the COVID-19 pandemic. Personal safety concerns triggered by the pandemic have made nationwide gun sales explode. Many gun dealers in Northeast Ohio say business is so busy they’ve had trouble maintaining inventory.

    At Summit Armory in Bath Township, owner Tim Ostrander reports business in his four-year-old store has hit “record levels.” Not even five months into 2020, his sales have surpassed everything he sold in 2019. Customers seeking to defend their homes have driven 95 percent of the increased sales, he says.

    “People want to feel safe in their houses,” Ostrander says.

    At L.E.P.D. Firearms Range and Training Facility in Columbus, co-owner Eric Delbert says there was an “apocalyptic" rise in sales during March, that fell off during April. During one week in mid-March, the store set new sales records each day, and Delbert reports its shelves were so bare “it looked like we had either been robbed or were going out of business.”

    He estimates that around 70 percent of those customers were first-time guy buyers concerned about personal security and potential crime as some jails began releasing prisoners out of fear that COVID-19 would spread in their facilities.

    “I think people were panicked,” he says. “It was something tangible they thought they could do."

    According to Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics, Ohio gun dealers ran 114,086 background checks this March, more than double the 63,156 that were conducted in February. In April, Ohio gun dealers conducted 68,812 background checks. In 2019, Ohio gun dealers ran a far lower level of checks in those months - 70,826 checks in March and 53,819 in April - the FBI statistics indicate.

    The Associated Press reported that five of the top 10 weeks ever for background checks around the nation occurred since mid-February, including the week with the most, March 16-22, when nearly 1.2 million checks were run. March included five of the top 10 days ever for background checks, including the day that set the record, March 20, when more than 210,000 checks were conducted.

    The Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action gun control groups issued a statement that warned the rise in gun sales caused by the pandemic could lead to a rise in gun violence.

    “This continued surge in gun sales is bringing new risks into American homes that will linger long after the pandemic,” said a statement from Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “The risks are particularly high for the millions of kids in homes with unsecured guns, women sheltering in place with abusers, and anyone who is struggling psychologically during this crisis. Policymakers have tools to address America’s gun violence crisis, and they should use them."

    Buckeye Firearms Association Executive Director Dean Rieck disputed the claim that the gun sale surge would contribute to violence. He said increased levels of depression, suicide and domestic violence are likely during the pandemic as people’s routines are disrupted, they are forced to stay home and they become stressed about jobs and income, but that guns wouldn’t cause violence.

    “Gun sales always go up in times of crisis or concern, regardless of what the specific crisis or concern may be,” said Rieck. “So it’s no surprise that we’re seeing a spike in sales during the coronavirus situation.”

    He noted that nationwide, gun sales spiked by more than 20 percent after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and said they also tend to rise after natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, as well as mass shootings, as gun purchasers seek to arm themselves before any potential crackdowns on firearms ownership.

    “People tend to take action when something dramatic happens and shakes them out of their complacency,” said Rieck. “They focus on their health after a heart attack and fix holes in the roof after a heavy rain, for example, but not before. It’s the same with personal security. When the media is telling people that the economy will shut down and we may enter a recession or depression, they start to think about basic necessities, such as food, medicine, toilet paper, and means of self-defense.”
    Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. James Madison, Federalist Paper No 10
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